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Author Topic: Scanning backs for large format  (Read 10462 times)
torger
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« on: February 17, 2012, 03:01:32 AM »
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I've tried to find out "the latest" about scanning backs for large format, but I don't find much. It seems like Betterlight is the only provider, and their web hasn't been updated for years, are they still in business? I did find Seitz 6x17 but it is a medium format scanning back. Betterlight does not cover the full 4" width of 4x5 either (it is only 72mm / 2.8" wide), I was thinking there would exist a digital scan back "drop in" replacement for 4x5" sheet film. I also know about the PowerPhase FX by Phase One, but that was discontinued years ago.

Are there any other manufacturers?
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 03:26:00 AM by torger » Logged
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2012, 03:32:21 AM »
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Betterlight is still in business.

Mike is a very helpful person who is quick at answering mail questions.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
hjulenissen
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« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2012, 03:49:19 AM »
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Scanning backs would seem to be an ideal platform to do multispectral capture?

-h
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torger
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« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2012, 04:08:58 AM »
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I'm curious about the scanning backs, from the aspect to work with 4x5" film (and 6x12 rollbacks) and have some sort of digital option to invest in later. Medium format digital backs have too small sensors and have too small pixels for the analog lenses. If one would invest in an analog system ready for medium format digital one would have to go for a 6x9 tech camera (like Linhof Techno) and use digital lenses, which is a bit more expensive than a 4x5" analog system, and leaves less attractive film options.

So far the scanning back option doesn't look too good though, no new products made and old products still very expensive. I would have expected them to be lower cost than medium format digital backs, and have scanning area close to 4x5" but that is not the case. Since a scanning back is very specialized type of equipment, mostly only used for repro photography I guess, it is however not too surprising that prices are high.

Here's a guy that has built his own scanning back out of a flatbed scanner :-) http://www.flickr.com/photos/projectese/sets/72157623187612134/
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 05:20:19 AM by torger » Logged
JonathanBenoit
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2012, 05:45:05 AM »
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Last I heard was that BetterLight has stopped producing scanning backs and only supports what they have previously produced.
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Kumar
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2012, 05:55:51 AM »
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If you go to the Betterlight website, you will find that the scanning back is used for many applications including art reproduction. I use it extensively for architecture, interiors and landscape photography. It does have its limits, but performs wonderfully within them. Kodak has stopped production of the sensor used in the 6-K2 back, so it is no longer in production. The larger back is still being made.

Kumar
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torger
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2012, 06:03:01 AM »
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Found these http://www.kigamo.com/ 7500, seems very similar to Betterlight.

And here's someone that has come up with the idea of a "stitching back" http://www.kapturegroup.com/quad/quad.html a sliding back designed for stitching. Oh well, there's the Phase One FlexAdaptor too I see.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 08:16:48 AM by torger » Logged
darr
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« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2012, 08:31:10 AM »
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Here is a Phase One scanning back at the auction site.
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darlene almeda
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torger
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« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2012, 09:27:50 AM »
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Here is a Phase One scanning back at the auction site.

It would have been nice if it had been the more recent PowerPhase FX instead, which is only 12 years old :-)

That PhotoPhase was introduced 1996....
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aaronchan
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2012, 12:26:47 PM »
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Anagramm makes very good scanback as well
David 2 goes up to 12xx megapixel...
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henrikfoto
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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2012, 01:48:06 PM »
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I use a Betterlight Super 6k.
A very good back and easy to use.

I have also owned the Phase one Powerphase FX. It is a pain to use
and the quality you get out of it is not even close to Betterlight quality.

Also Mike at betterlight is a very nice and knowlegeable person,
and allways answers fast with all help needed.

Henrik
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torger
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2012, 03:24:18 PM »
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Betterlight does indeed seem to have one of the best offers. It is a bit sad though that the market for these things is not larger than it seems to be, because I don't it needs to be as expensive as it is. The tech should be rather similar to a flatbed scanner and substantially cheaper than a digital medium format back need to be. You could have designs with several linear sensors if a single long one is expensive, so wider than those 72mm (as the kodak trilinear sensor is) should be possible too without huge increase in cost.

I'm looking into moving to large format film because medium format digital is too expensive, and 35mm digital has not the view camera workflow I desire. It seems to be quite many amateurs doing large format, perhaps even more amateurs than pros these days, so I find it a bit surprising that there is no "affordable" (say 3K) scanback solution for 4x5", I think many would find it as a nice complement to the film. But maybe I underestimate the complexity of the technology.

I see that betterlight actually had a 4,5K back (sold out), which I probably could afford, but I don't hassle around wih large format to get 18 megapixel images which is the resolution of that back.

The cheapest betterlight that can be bought today is $15K (10K) 48 rgb megapixels, the same price as a 44x33mm 40 megapixel digital back. If it is about that kind of money, and it is 48 rgb megapixels scanned vs 40 megapixels bayer-interpolated all in one shot, I'd go for the latter, even if digtal mf lenses will cost me a bit more than the analog large format.

[modified to fix decimal point in prices, sorry for the confusion]
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 04:09:23 AM by torger » Logged
henrikfoto
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2012, 04:39:50 PM »
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What you forget when you compere scanners to one-shot backs is that
the scanners are 100% true colours with no interpollation.

So compared to a oneshot back with same "mp-size" the scanner is superior.
The most used Betterlight back, Super 6k is uninterpollated 48mp.
That is more resolution than the new Phase one iq180, which is just guessing 2/3 of the colours.

A few days ago a 8000x10600 pixel Betterlight was sold on Ebay for just 3.200$.
For that price you might get a 16 mp one-shot back ..

If you have the time, there is still nothing better than the scanbacks.

Henrik
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 04:54:25 PM by henrikfoto » Logged
Kumar
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« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2012, 09:00:25 PM »
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Where did you get the pricing for the Betterlight backs? The Super6K-HS is $14,995 and the Super8K-HS is $17,995.

Kumar
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2012, 09:11:24 PM »
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What you forget when you compere scanners to one-shot backs is that
the scanners are 100% true colours with no interpollation.

So compared to a oneshot back with same "mp-size" the scanner is superior.
The most used Betterlight back, Super 6k is uninterpollated 48mp.
That is more resolution than the new Phase one iq180, which is just guessing 2/3 of the colours.

A few days ago a 8000x10600 pixel Betterlight was sold on Ebay for just 3.200$.
For that price you might get a 16 mp one-shot back ..

If you have the time, there is still nothing better than the scanbacks.

Uninterrupted color is better than interpolated color - no doubt. But for most kinds of photography the difference is pretty small. It was a much bigger difference back in the day but the math used by Capture One, LightRoom, Aperture et al is very good at interpolating the color from Bayer patterns.

But I would put forth that "if you have the time" is not the only qualifier for whether a scanback is the best option for someone's needs.

In their element scan backs produce utterly fantastic images. But subject motion creates weird artifacts/schmeering, changing light in the scene creates weird bands and effects, the camera has to be very stable for the duration of the scan (though not as stable as you might think since during a 20 minute exposure each line of the image is still only being exposed for a short period), the lens has to be sharp and well focused and shot at a middle-aperture where DOF can be challenging. In other words there are many many situations in which a scan back is simply not workable.

There is also the issue of service/reliability. I speak here only about Phase One as I have very little experience with or knowledge of Betterlight, their service, or their business. I can however tell you about the situation for Phase One Scan Backs. The support department at Phase One really hates ending support for products - it's a matter of principal. So the firewire based FX+ (from 2000) is still serviceable and service for older scan SCSI-based scan backs was only ended because SCSI has gone the way of the floppy disk. But the reality is scan backs are mechanical products and any issue with the mechanics can lead to streaks in the image (just google for, and most of the scan backs Phase One ever produced are now pushing, or over, a decade old. Likewise the software to use an FX+ has been kept "in service" - they patched it to work with Leopard, and Snow Leopard, but that's where it will end. Lion is not supported and Mountain Lion won't be either. That's not "game over" - it's not that hard to find decent deals on older Apple computers, but it does make it harder and harder for me to recommend them.

We've sold a handful of scanbacks (mostly Phase One FX+) over the years that I've been here, but I don't think we've sold even one in the last 12 months. We sell a refurbished Leaf Aptus 22 back for $5k with warranty, dealer support, and confidence of support well into the future. Put that back on a Cambo Wide RS with a Schneider 60mm XL and you can easily shoot three frames within the image circle (shifted left, centered, shifted right) and end up with a blazingly sharp 54 megapixel image in less time than it takes to do the "prescan" on a scan back. The same back can be slapped on a 645 Autofocus body to shoot fashion/portraits/lifestyle etc. And the weight and size of the kit is tiny compared to a 4x5.

Now all that said, I did have a hell of a fun time shooting the FX+ with an infrared-pass/visible-block. But as far as infrared-quality-vs-price goes I can't think of anything else that comes close to a scan back - with the huge caveats of how hard it can be to account to compose and focus (accounting for focus shift) when using a view camera. All and all I'd still much rather have the DM33-IR we've recently started selling (I was just playing with it in Death Valley last week).

Generally the market prices things pretty efficiently. I don't think the current price for used scanbacks is an aberration from that.

Doug Peterson (e-mail Me)
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« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 09:26:41 PM by dougpetersonci » Logged

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Kumar
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« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2012, 10:27:41 PM »
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A Betterlight scanback is like always using a multi-shot back as far as time, stability, light and wind are concerned. A fast pre-scan with the Super6K-HS takes 4 seconds. There is no need to restrict usage to middle apertures - most large format lenses are specified to be best at f/16 or f/22. Combining those apertures with movements is more than sufficient for any DOF requirements. Betterlight's ViewFinder software is excellent and simple to use. The focus check feature provides live audio-visual control, and Super View shows 100% detail. The software and test images can be freely downloaded for evaluation.

There are considerable restrictions - no low light, long exposures, windy days or subject movement.

Kumar
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2012, 10:37:52 PM »
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A Betterlight scanback is like always using a multi-shot back as far as time, stability, light and wind are concerned. A fast pre-scan with the Super6K-HS takes 4 seconds. There is no need to restrict usage to middle apertures - most large format lenses are specified to be best at f/16 or f/22. Combining those apertures with movements is more than sufficient for any DOF requirements. Betterlight's ViewFinder software is excellent and simple to use. The focus check feature provides live audio-visual control, and Super View shows 100% detail. The software and test images can be freely downloaded for evaluation.

Out of curiosity does the software work in Lion? Release notes only mention Snow Leopard.

Have you ever compared the scan of something with fine detail at f/8 or f/11 vs. f/22?  I've not used a Betterlight but physics are physics. The Super6k sensor has an 8 micron sensor, and in my extensive experience with 9 micron sensors f/22 loses a lot of fine detail due to diffraction. That's not to say you couldn't use f/22 and get great results. But if the point of the scan back is to get very high resolution on the cheap (in situations conducive to it's use) then I'd think avoiding severe diffraction would be an important part of that goal.

Doug Peterson (e-mail Me)
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Kumar
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« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2012, 12:25:02 AM »
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Out of curiosity does the software work in Lion? Release notes only mention Snow Leopard.

Have you ever compared the scan of something with fine detail at f/8 or f/11 vs. f/22?  I've not used a Betterlight but physics are physics. The Super6k sensor has an 8 micron sensor, and in my extensive experience with 9 micron sensors f/22 loses a lot of fine detail due to diffraction. That's not to say you couldn't use f/22 and get great results. But if the point of the scan back is to get very high resolution on the cheap (in situations conducive to it's use) then I'd think avoiding severe diffraction would be an important part of that goal.

Doug Peterson

ViewFinder works perfectly in Lion - though I'm still on Snow Leopard (and XP!).

The Betterlight site has numerous examples showing fine detail over long distances:
http://betterlight.com/fullRes_zoomifyLIST.html The site also has a list of photographers using these backs in different fields, some of whom are probably local to you. You might want to check with them.

I usually shoot at f/16 or f/22, though I have used a Heliar and Fujinon SF lenses wide open. Naturally, with these lenses, resolution was not the important factor.

The Super8K has 9-micron pixels, while the Super6K has 12-micron pixels.

Kumar
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 01:26:20 AM by Kumar » Logged

Doug Peterson
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« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2012, 02:11:05 AM »
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Last time I count pixels after 1am! Thanks for the correction.

Lion support is great news. That alone would be a good reason to select a Betterlight over the FX+.

But I think I'll pass on any further research. Like I said, interest in scan backs from our clients was low to start with and fell off a cliff in the last year or so.

That said I'll check in with them at Photokina. You never know when you'll be caught off guard!
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torger
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« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2012, 02:45:58 AM »
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I do know the difference between interpolated colors and true rgb. The advantage of true rgb is often exaggerated. With bayer you keep almost all spatial resolution and lose color resolution, but the matches the eye pretty well too. I've pixel-peeped images from these systems and yes true RGB is better, but not hugely so.

The question I have asked myself is - what is the lowest cost way to get digital high resolution images out of a 4x5 camera. Preferably higher resolution than high end medium format, so one get something extra out of the larger format. The idea of the large formats is to trade precision for larger format, and still gain a little bit of resolution in the process. Getting say at least 100 megapixel of effective resolution would be my target.

Scanbacks seemed quite obvious. But with the prices they have, stitching from an entry level medium format back might be a better option. Say a $8K 22 megapixel 36x48mm sensor, perhaps $5K refurbished (large sensor area and large pixels is ideal, 22 megapixel 9 micron is ok, corresponds to 2800 ppi scan resolution), and use the geared shift/rise/fall to stitch 9x9, that way you'd get near the 4x5 area, say 96x128mm 156 megapixel.

From my panorama head work I'd estimate that it would take 4x9=36 seconds to get through. Lens color cast might be a challenge though. And getting enough precision concerning ground glass vs back and those fairly large shifts required, a quality camera is required, I'm thinking in the terms Arca Swiss F-Metric. Due to the smaller apertures typically used depth of focus should be around 0.5mm or so, not sure if it is realistic to keep within that with +/-40mm and +/-30mm rise/shift.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 04:10:22 AM by torger » Logged
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